O’DOWDA DOUBLE PUNISHES THE BEES
MICHAEL APPLETON believes it will take an outstanding display from an opponent to defeat his promotion-chasing Oxford side after watching them dismantle Barnet with a superb second-half showing.
Callum O’Dowda’s double and a late strike from substitute Danny Hylton earned all three points at The Hive to move the second-placed Us six points clear of third spot.
Appleton said: “We’ve got eight games to go, there are still 24 points to play for, so that’s either 24 points to win or lose. “We want to win as many as possible. “There’s a focus about the players and I think everyone can see that now.
“If we’re going to get beaten, it’s going to take one hell of a performance or a certain team effort from the opposition.
“We knew that we would have to defend well as a team here, especially set-plays, and they did that manfully.
“We genuinely believed that if we were in the game after an hour we would be able to take the game away from them.”
The contest was open and end-to-end from the start and Bees goalkeeper Jamie Stephens had to be alert to deny O’Dowda early on before Us keeper Benjamin Buchel touched Curtis Weston’s close-range header past the right post at the other end.
Oxford’s Liam Sercombe should have opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark but, after being teed up by Kemar Roofe, the midfielder shot straight at the legs of Stephens.
However, O’Dowda opened the scoring eight minutes into the second half, slotting in from a tight angle on the left of Barnet’s six-yard box after his low cross was sliced back to him by Bees defender Michael Nelson.
The electric winger then grabbed his second, running half the length of the pitch and finding the bottom-right corner at the second attempt after Stephens blocked his initial shot.
Subsitute Hylton capped a fine day for the Us and the 1,568 travelling fans when he smashed home John Lundstram’s pass a minute from time.
But despite the heavy defeat, Martin Allen felt Barnet merited more for their first-half display, and is now considering fielding some of the club’s youth players with little left to play for this season.
“We had a couple of good chances, their ‘keeper made a couple of good saves and I thought we really, really played well,” Allen said.
“The second half, they came out, they expressed themselves, they got back into the game and it was just disappointing to concede that goal so soon after half time.
“We didn’t get the goal that I thought we deserved in the first half and then we paid the price for that in the second half.
“We can’t go up and we can’t go down now either. I’ll have a good think now over the next few days about what we’re going to do for next weekend with regard to which players can be playing and, maybe for some of our young lads, what debuts we can give out.”
STAR MAN CALLUM
Oxford THREE AND EASY: Danny Hylton celebrates rounding off the win